Wednesday, 18 June 2014

A magic night to remember

We attended a special event recently: the so-called Dreamnight at the zoo. It is an annual event, taking place preferably on the first Friday of June in zoos around the world. This special event was invented for children with chronic illnesses or disabilities and their families. It was founded in the Netherlands in 1996. The employees of the zoos dedicate their time without any reimbursement to make magic happen for all the kids that get to visit the zoo.

It was the first time that we were able to get an invitation since they are very often handed out to self-help groups (which we are not part of due to our lack of diagnosis) or a few special hospitals (none of which are ones we are treated at) so it is almost impossible to get an invitation if you are not part of one of these institutions. Luckily for us, a friend of mine was there to make a performance and she was handed over three invitations to pass to someone else. She knew that I had been trying to go there so she gave us one of them.

On the day of the event the regular visitors of the zoo are requested to leave earlier. Before we got admittance to the zoo there was a performance with drums and dancers in front of the entrance which all of the kids and parents really enjoyed. Then the gates were opened and we could go inside. There was so much to do and see that we almost had to hurry to get to do all the things we wanted to do.

First of all we started with feeding the monkeys. We were given pine cones which we stuffed with popcorn and various other foods. We sprinkled honey over it to make the food stick and then we threw it into the compound. The monkeys loved the pine cones.

On our way to the monkeys we were able to pet chickens and chicks. Sunny was very anxious and did not really want to do it but he was fascinated at how the chicks were held by the zoo personnel and talked about it a lot in his own special way.

We went on to do some pony riding. Since the ponies are at the other end of the zoo and everyone started to visit the animals and attractions near the entrance we were almost alone. Sunny, being the hippo therapy champion that he is, excelled at riding the pony and got a lot of compliments for his good sitting posture. He could do several rounds because no one else was there and he was very happy about that.

Right next to the ponies were the goat. There was a time when Sunny was eager to pet the goat, he even went so far as to cuddle with them and lay his head on their backs or holding their cuddly tails. This time he was reluctant so we did not force him to get close to them.

We went to see the cows with their calves and the big pigs.

A highlight certainly was feeding the giraffes. We were given large tree branches with lots of leaves on them and got to stick them through the fences where the giraffes eat greedily. Sunny enjoyed this so much, he squeaked with delight and could not get enough. I mean, when do you have the chance of getting so close to those majestic, beautiful animals? When they stuck their mouths and noses through the fence you could even pet them if you were brave and quick enough. It surely was something really special.

On our way to the lower part of the zoo we watched the feeding of the vultures and also could peek inside the ice bear cave.

After all those exciting things we took a break and had dinner and beverages. Everything was free of charge and a band played while we sat outside and enjoyed our food. Sunny, always acting like a camel when it comes to drinking, downed all of our cups so we had to go and get more beverages for ourselves - and for him, of course.

After feeling rested and full we went on to see the feeding of the sea lions. This is something we rarely miss when we visit the zoo. Sunny loves the sea lions and is actually quite good at imitating their sounds. We love how he does that and ask him to do it very often. It is just so lovely!

We moved on to get a chance to pet a penguin! That was just cool. It felt very soft and fluffy (like a bird) and his wings were rather rough. Sunny even dared to come close and pet it, too.

Then we went into the aquarium. Sunny loves to watch the fish in their tanks and ran from one tank to the other. The bigger the fish are, the better. He found a huge tank with huge fish where he placed himself in front of and just enjoyed watching them.

After some time there we moved on, Sunny and my husband paying a visit to the crocodiles while I stood in line to pet a snake. Touching a snake is something that I always wanted to do so I grabbed the chance. It was a rather small colubrid (no huge constrictor snake, lol) and I was impressed at how muscular it felt and how it wrapped itself around my wrist. Its skin felt smooth and sleek. It was awesome and I am glad I took the time to wait for this experience.

On our way out of the aquarium we got the chance to pet a large koi carp which was very fascinating for Sunny. He pet it several times and could have done that for the rest of the night, I think.

The Dreamnight was slowly coming to a close and when it started to dawn we all went outside and watched a fire show. Sunny was mesmerised!

On our way out each child was given a small present.

In the forefront of the event I was wondering how Sunny would handle being up way past his usual bedtime but in the car on the drive home he was the one being the fittest of us three. He sat in his seat and was still fully awake and excited while my husband was snoring away next to me.

It was a very special event that we will surely not forget. It felt good to be surrounded by others who share our experiences and challenges. There we no stares, no awkward feelings. We were part of the group and not the outsiders. That felt really good. I also love how the staff at the zoo bent over backwards to give our kids such a special night that I am sure everyone enjoyed as much as we did.


  1. It sounds amazing, Joy! I'm so happy that your friend got you tickets, and that you were able to pet a snake (shudder) and that Sunny enjoyed himself so much!

    1. It was absolutely amazing, Kristi! You should check whether there is a zoo near you that does the Dreamnight, too, and try to get tickets!

  2. How wonderful, Joy! Thanks for sharing your excitement and fun. It's great Sunny had such a great time.

    1. Yes, he really did have a great time. If your kid is happy then you are happy, it's just true! ;-)

  3. that sounds like such an awesome trip to the zoo! i've never heard of anything like that around here so i'm going to have to do some research! thanks for sharing your visit to the zoo, and i can not believe you petted the snake!!!

    1. Hi! If you visit the link at the beginning of my post you will be able to see all the zoos participating. Maybe you find one near you. I just looked, there are so many in the US that are part of it:
      Would love to hear whether there is one close to you.

      As for the snake: it was an awesome experience and I would have been sad to have missed it!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!


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